Nutrition and Healthy Aging: 6 Nutrients to Eat As You Age
As we age, we all notice changes in our bodies. Whether they are slight or significant, our bodies are adapting to our needs over time.
Adults who want to focus on healthy aging will need to adjust their nutrition and consume more nutrient-dense foods to keep the body as healthy as possible.
Though your caloric needs decrease, your nutrient needs do not. Even though you are eating less food, you still need to eat foods rich in important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and calcium.
You can also try to add a few other nutrients to your diet as well, including collagen, Sulforaphane, and extra virgin olive oil. Watch this video and read on for more info.
In general, eat a nutrient-dense diet.
To maintain good health and a healthy weight, you need to eat nutrient-dense food. Nutrient-dense foods have high levels of vitamins and minerals compared to a lower number of calories. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
- Lean cuts of meat
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
Nutrient-dense foods become even more important as you age and try to maintain your health. By eating these foods, you are more likely to get the nutrients you need without eating too many calories.
3 Well-Known Nutrients To Eat As You Age
You may actually have some nutritional deficiencies or inadequacies as you get older, meaning you don’t have enough of these nutrients in your body.
If you think you have a nutrient deficiency, you should see a physician. Blood tests can identify any problems and help you create a personalized plan for healthy eating.
Strive to eat foods that contain healthy amounts of:
Vitamin B12 is absorbed through your stomach and intestines. As you get older, you have less stomach acid, which lowers your ability to absorb Vitamin B12. People with low levels of Vitamin B12 may feel fatigued or tired all the time, have poor balance, or even experience memory problems.
If your blood work shows you have low levels of Vitamin B12, you can eat the following foods to help increase your B12 levels:
- Fortified soy products, such as tofu
- Red meat
- Low-fat dairy
- Fortified cereals with little to no sugar
Your body is actually capable of creating Vitamin D with only sun exposure. However, anyone living north of Atlanta does not see enough sunshine year-round to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels from the sun alone.
Especially as you age, your skin is less able to create the Vitamin D you need. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause symptoms like bone pain or muscle weakness, depression, a weakened immune system, or even bone loss.
You can increase your Vitamin D levels by increasing your intake of foods like salmon, mushrooms, fish, egg yolks, and yogurt.
Calcium is a crucial mineral for your body, as it is used for several different functions. Consuming Vitamin D while consuming calcium increases your body’s absorption of calcium.
This combination of Vitamin D and calcium can help you reduce your risk for osteoporosis and bone loss.
Maintaining adequate levels of calcium as you age is also important because some medications may interfere with your body’s absorption of calcium. You can ensure you are getting the right amounts of calcium by eating foods such as:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
3 Additional Nutrients to Eat As You Age
Collagen is a protein. It's found predominantly in the fats and the connective tissues of animal products.
In our modern diet, we don't eat as much of this as ancestral human populations did. In the modern diet, we eat more muscle meat, which is rich in an amino acid called methionine.
We tend to get less collagen, which is rich in an amino acid called glycine, in our diet. Glycine and collagen are important because they've been shown to improve heart, joint, bone, and skin health, and collagen has also been shown to help improve sleep. It also has an anti-anxiety effect.
Another effect of glycine is it protects against oxidative stress, inflammation, promotes DNA repair, and is a precursor for glutathione production. Glutathione is a really powerful antioxidant that your body produces. Having enough glycine, which is an amino acid that's in collagen in high amounts, will ensure your body is producing a lot of glutathione.
Where can you get collagen from?
Bone broth is a really great source. If you're looking for a natural food source for this, you could make your own bone broth. They have lots of great options at the store, pre-packaged broth varieties.
It's also very easy to supplement to get collagen protein powder. It's good in smoothies or coffees.
The second nutrient is sulforaphane, which is a sulfur-based phytonutrient. That means it's a nutrient found in plants.
Sulforaphane occurs mostly in cruciferous vegetables, which are things like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.
Sulforaphane is kind of a hot new kind of popular nutrient. It's written about in the news a lot. Some evidence has been shown that it may be protective against Alzheimer's disease. It's been shown to help improve Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which helps protect and grow new brain cells.
So it has a lot of benefits for cognitive health, and it protects your body against oxidative stress and damage, protects your cells and your DNA from being damaged from free radicals that are produced when you have high levels of inflammation or different toxins in your body. Sulforaphane has also been shown to have potential anti-cancer benefits.
As I said, you can get this from cruciferous vegetables. The richest source is going to be from broccoli sprouts. You can find these at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. They come in a little box of little sprouts. You can sprinkle them on salads or freeze them and put them in smoothies.
Some people also choose to sprout their own. They're pretty easy to grow if you get some broccoli seeds and you can sprout them in a Mason jar.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The third nutrient isn't actually a nutrient. It's more of a food. It's Extra Virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have all these longevity, anti-cancer, and heart health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil, specifically, is great because it's very rich in antioxidants. It helps reduce inflammation throughout your body. It can protect your stem cells, which are cells that then grow into new cells in your body.
It can help regulate the various longevity pathways in your body. And it can also suppress and prevent something called senescent cells. These are old damaged cells in your body that have stopped dividing and reproducing and that are emitting these inflammatory signals that can damage nearby cells and tissues.
Extra virgin olive oil, the compounds in it can help to suppress these inflammatory signals from the senescent cells.
Olive oil is great to cook with. If you get the Extra virgin variety, it's going to be very high in antioxidants, which also protects the oil from being damaged from heat, from cooking. It's great to replace the other oils you may be using like soybean oil, canola oil, and sunflower or safflower oil. Those are all the oils that can be damaged from heat during cooking.
They also tend to be damaged during the industrial extraction process when they make these oils.
When you're buying extra virgin olive oil, be aware there are actually some problems with counterfeit oils out there that claim to be extra-virgin olive oil, but they're really some cheaper oil just put in a bottle that says extra virgin.
When shopping, look for a dark bottle. That's going to protect the oil from the sunlight, which can degrade the oil over time. Look also for an expiration date on the bottle to see when it's been packaged.
Generally, domestic oils are better. If you get something from California, it is less likely to be counterfeit.
And when you taste it, you want to taste like a peppery spicy taste tingling in the back of your throat. If you take a spoonful of it, that shows you that there are phytonutrients in it, polyphenols that are the tingling you feel in your throat. That's a good way to test and see if you have a good one.
Finally, generally, the unfiltered varieties are even better. Those are the cloudy bottles. If you hold it up to the light, you can see a little bit of a cloud in the bottle.
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